Putin, in a Monday speech, thanks mercenaries for avoiding ‘bloodshed’

Putin, in a Monday speech, thanks mercenaries for avoiding 'bloodshed'

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation Monday night, thanking citizens for their unity and thanking some rebellious mercenaries for avoiding “bloodshed.”

The speech was Putin’s first appearance since the abrupt end of the rebellion by private military outfit Wagner Group, which is headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin. Putin said he’d taken steps to protect Russia and the population from the rebellion, which ended less than a day after .

Putin said members of Russia’s Air Force died in the rebellion. Wagner claimed to have shot down several aircraft during its march northward on the weekend.

On Monday Putin blamed Russia’s “enemies” for the rebellion. He said Wagner’s soldiers were loyal to Russia, but had been “used blindly, forced to turn on their comrades with whom they fought shoulder to shoulder.”

On Sunday Putin had promised to punish those who had orchestrated the revolt; on Monday he blamed Prigozhin for the rebellion.

In his speech, Putin gave Wagner’s fighters the choice to either sign on with Russia’s army, return to their families or leave the country for Belarus.

The Kremlin said Prigozhin and his forces had received amnesty, and that Prigozhin had moved to Belarus. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reportedly negotiated the immediate agreement that halted the rebellion.

It was not immediately clear where Prigozhin was on Monday; even following  when he said the rebellion hadn’t targeted the Russian state.

“We started our march because of an injustice,” he said in the message.

He said the revolt was a response to an attack on his forces, allegedly by the Russian military, that killed roughly 30 Wagner fighters.

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